Has She Never Even Seen Mitt Romney?
A credible and rational voice of Conservatism is Peggy Noonan whose Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal is usually a well written piece coherently arguing her position. She is the kind of writer where even if one disagrees with her analysis one can appreciate the thought and logic she uses to support it.
But now the general election has kicked off, Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama and while Mr. Romney is not highly liked by the WSJ, he is the nominee and they will do everything they can to
support him defeat Mr. Obama. So the word
must have gone out to those who write regular opinion columns that for the next
six months it is non-stop attack on Mr. Obama.
Ms. Noonan kicks things off with
a really nasty personal attack on the President, one that reflects more
badly on Ms. Noonan than on Mr. Obama.
Here is the gist of her complaint with the President.
But—and forgive me, because what I'm about to say is rude—has anyone noticed how boring he is? Plonking platitude after plonking platitude. To see Mr. Obama on the stump is to see a man at the podium who's constantly dribbling away the punch line. He looks pleasant but lacks joy; he's cool but lacks vigor. A lot of what he says could have been said by a president 12 or 20 years ago, little is anchored to the moment. As he makes his points he often seems distracted, as if he's holding a private conversation in his head, noticing crowd size, for instance, and wishing the front row would start fainting again, like they used to.
There are two things to note here. First of all for all his faults as President, and he has many, no one would say that Mr. Obama is boring on the stump. In fact, one legitimate criticism of the President is that his actions do not live up to his rhetoric, in part because it is just so good. And that leads us to the second point.
A solid campaign strategy is to deflect attention from one’s defects by claiming those defects actually exist in the opposing candidate. So when Ms. Noonan attacks Mr. Obama for being boring, and for not have any core philosophy, like this
But it still matters that the president doesn't have a coherent agenda, or a political philosophy that is really clear to people. To the extent he has a philosophy, it tends to pop up furtively in stray comments and then go away. This is to a unique degree a presidency of inference, its overall meaning never vividly declared. In some eras, that may be a plus. In this one?
It is pretty obvious that what she is trying to do is to take the Romney persona, which is boring and lacks a coherent agenda and paste it onto Mr. Obama. She also tries to play the scandal and incompetence card, like this
There is a growing air of incompetence around Mr. Obama's White House. It was seen again this week in Supreme Court arguments over the administration's challenge to
attempted crackdown on illegal immigration. As Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News
wrote, the court seemed to be disagreeing with the administration's
understanding of federal power: "Solicitor General Donald Verrilli
. . . met resistance across ideological lines. . . . Even
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's only Hispanic and an Obama appointee, told
Verrilli his argument is 'not selling very well.'" This follows last
month's embarrassing showing over the constitutionality of parts of ObamaCare. Arizona
All of this looks so bush league, so scattered. Add it to the General Services Administration, to Solyndra, to the other scandals, and you get a growing sense that no one's in charge, that the administration is paying attention to politics but not day-to-day governance.
While what she cites is true, think how it pales in comparison to, oh say, George W. Bush and even Ronald Reagan. There has been no flouting of the rule of law under Mr. Obama, no torture cases, no massive fraud, no Iran Contra scandal and no Watergate. Historians, the ones who can write objectively will write that Mr. Obama performed well in the sense that he hired qualified people and let them do their jobs. Yes, with a Federal government that employees millions and spends trillions, there will be problems but think about the Bush Attorney Generals and what they did and you will welcome the professionalism of Eirc Holder.
So hopefully now that she has completed the required assignment of baseless character assassination of Mr. Obama Ms. Noonan will return to writing her intelligent and thoughtful commentary. She really needs to, she is about the only one at the WSJ who can. Ms. Noonan titles her piece, the 'Bush League President' but she knows we already had a bush league President, Mr. Bush.